Toribash is the type of game whose description spurns equal parts excitement, intrigue, and utter confusion; a physics-based, strategic fighter with full control over every part of the body. Brutal videos of the game in action, with agile fighters flipping through the air and decapitating opponents, hint at the gruesome and amazing capabilities of Toribash. It's too bad that you'll likely never see any of it .
Toribash began life in 2006 as an indie game for the PC and Mac, and went on to win multiple indie-awards the following year. But, like many indie games, the premise is often better than the reality. The fighters of Toribash are nothing more than conglomerations of spheres and cubes, with each of the 20 spheres representing a joint/muscle-group. No amount of experience in the fighting genre has prepared you for the controls.
There are no quarter-circles or button-combos to memorize. Instead, the game remains paused while you select spheres and command them to move one of two ways. A ghostly outline shows how the movement will proceed. When you resume play, your character momentarily follows the assigned movements before pausing again for further adjustments. The goal is to either knock your motionless opponent down or mangle him without hitting the ground yourself, which is about 20 times harder than you're thinking.
Most people never consider the complexity of seemingly simplistic movement, such as outstretching your arm for a handshake. Your biceps and shoulders pull your arm up, your lower back tightens to compensate for the extra weight out front, and your calves move to hold your balance. These are the intricacies of movement that Toribash requires to you manipulate. Now, think about all the contractions and contortions that go into a spinning jump-kick. Mind-boggling, isn't it?
I was thrilled the first time I jumped into the air, even though I flipped halfway over and came down on my head. On a much later attempt, I managed to do a twisting front-flip and drive my heel down on the skull of my infuriatingly steadfast adversary. I spent 15-minutes choreographing that display of martial prowess, only to have the impact change the momentum of my torso. Once again, I fell on my head and lost.
Toribash is split into six fighting styles, such as Sumo and Wushu, but this has no bearing on the controls or visual appearances. Instead, they are presets for variables, including the strength of gravity, ease of dismemberment, the length between pauses, and more. If you have a friend (with an incredibly high level of patience) you can duel by taking turns adjusting the joints of your characters. These are the best fights, with wildly unexpected results, but still far from thrilling.
Toribash has a large following online, with mods, replays, fighting clans, dance troupes, and more. Search for Toribash and 'skate' or 'gymnastics.' Some people have an extreme level of devotion for the game. I do not. I like to have fun and lose myself in excitement, not tweak physics for a half-hour to get a five-second clip of what appears to be two marionettes squabbling.